Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 20 in Oct. 1710; 25 in Dec. 1710


13 Mar. 1690Samuel Foote 
 Thomas Bere 
20 Apr. 1691Sir Anthony Keck vice Foote, deceased 
30 Oct. 1695Thomas Bere 
 Charles Spencer, Ld. Spencer 
30 July 1698Thomas Bere 
 Charles Spencer, Ld. Spencer 
11 Jan. 1701Thomas Bere 
 Charles Spencer, Ld. Spencer 
29 Nov. 1701Thomas Bere 
 Charles Spencer, Ld. Spencer 
25 July 1702Thomas Bere 
 Charles Spencer, Ld. Spencer 
28 Nov. 1702Robert Burridge vice Lord Spencer, called  to the Upper House 
19 May 1705Thomas Bere 
 Robert Burridge 
11 May 1708Thomas Bere 
 Richard Mervin 
14 Oct. 1710Thomas Bere13
 Richard Mervin13
 John Worth13
 Double return. Election declared void, 1 Dec. 1710 
16 Dec. 1710Sir Edward Northey13
 John Worth13
 Thomas Bere12
 Richard Mervin12
5 Sept. 1713Sir Edward Northey 
 John Worth 

Main Article

Tiverton was one of the larger industrial centres in the south-west, and was notable for the manufacture of serge and kersey. Although the town possessed a population of over 8,500 by the late 17th century, its electorate was restricted to the 25 members of the corporation. The preoccupations of this merchant oligarchy were clearly reflected in a petition of 26 Feb. 1707:

the combinations or clubs into which the labourers in the woollen manufactures have of late formed themselves is a growing complaint at Tiverton and, after a great deal of forbearance from their masters are become so insolent as to oblige them to comply with whatever their clubs shall determine and assemble themselves when they please in a riotous manner, abusing their masters, insulting justice and denying all authority that opposes them.1

The Whigs predominated in the early part of this period, and their hold on the corporation was confirmed by the new charter of 1692. Local Whigs such as Samuel Foote, Thomas Bere and Robert Burridge were usually returned for one of the seats, with the other going to eminent outsiders like Sir Anthony Keck and Lord Spencer. In 1701 the Tory electoral magnate, Jonathan Trelawny, bishop of Exeter, saw ‘little hope at Tiverton for our friends’. Not until 1708 was a Tory returned: Richard Mervin, a legal adviser to a number of local landed families. At the 1710 election Mervin, Bere and John Worth, a local merchant and Tory, received 13 votes each. All three were returned with the proviso that the House should determine the result. The election was declared void, however, and three Tories and one Whig (Bere) contested the ensuing by-election. By the narrowest of margins two Tories were returned: Worth himself and an influential outsider, the attorney-general, Sir Edward Northey. One London newspaper reported that ‘the Whiggish and Presbyterian interest is clearly overthrown’ and claimed that the Tory majority would have been greater ‘had not one of the Church party proved a false brother, being seduced by a Dutch trade and Presbyterian money’. It was also alleged that ‘diverse others of the corporation had the temptation of £300 a piece . . . but they had the courage and honesty to resist’. In May 1713 the change in political climate was reflected in the Tiverton address congratulating the Queen on a glorious peace concluded ‘against all the artifices of factions and ill-designing men’. Northey and Worth were unopposed at the general election of that year.2

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. W. Harding, Hist. Tiverton, i. 88, 92–94.
  • 2. Ibid.; Devon RO, Exeter dioc. archs., Trelawny to Adn. Cook, 4 Jan. 1701; Trans. Devon Assoc. lxvii. 344; Post Boy, 21–23 Dec. 1710; London Gazette, 19–23 May 1713.